The questions from the opposition benches over protected Acadian and African Nova Scotian electoral boundaries are missing the bigger picture.
Recently, Progressive Conservative Acadian Affairs critic Chris d’Entremont called on Cape Breton-Richmond MLA Michel Samson to step aside as the lead on the electoral boundaries issue because, the Tory MLA contends, it conflicts with Samson’s responsibilities as Minister of Acadian Affairs.
He argued that Samson cannot be an advocate for Acadians while continuing to deny them ridings of their own. The PC MLA stated that the province’s Acadian community needs to know they have a minister who will protect their interests.
On January 24, the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal concluded a 2012 change to Nova Scotia’s electoral boundaries violated Section 3 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms by altering the African Nova Scotian electoral district of Preston, as well as the Acadian ridings of Clare, Argyle and Richmond.
At the time, Samson said he planned to meet with La Fédération acadienne de la Nouvelle-Écosse (La FANE) to discuss the next steps in the process. He also said restarting the electoral boundary process with a new commission could take up to a year or longer.
When contacted following d’Entremont’s comments, Samson said he met with La FANE recently and had what he described as a “positive discussion” about whether LaFANE favours a return to the protected ridings, or other options.
Samson said it was Premier Stephen McNeil’s decision to call an election, but the Acadian Affairs minister explained that unilaterally reverting back to protected ridings also affects dozens of neighbouring ridings.
What Samson did not mention was that there is also an established, trusted and legally entrenched process for changing electoral boundaries which took place in 2012 and is set to resume in 2022.
The electoral boundary review which took place five years ago actually ordered the above-mentioned ridings remain intact and protected, but it was the previous NDP government which decided to circumvent this process to arbitrarily change ridings, awkwardly lumping Richmond in with the Town of Port Hawkesbury and the eastern part of Cape Breton County.
The boundary review process actually worked for Nova Scotians, but the government of the day decided to do what it felt was in its best political interests.
Fortunately, it did not work in their best interests, a fate which will hopefully discourage other governments from seeking political preservation through questionable gerrymandering.
The process worked last time because it was neutral and apolitical. There is no reason to believe it will not work again. The best course of action is to allow that process to resume on schedule.